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Clean Out The Refrigerator, Fix Veggie Burgers

By Bev Bennett Los Angeles Times Service

There comes a point when you’ve got to clean leftovers out of the refrigerator. The rice that was great under Sunday night’s stir-fry can go in one more dish - soon. A handful of mushrooms isn’t enough to build an entree, but has to be used for something before it grows fuzz. And one zucchini? What can you possibly do with it?

The answer to all this, and whatever else is lurking in the corners of your refrigerator, is a veggie burger.

You’re free to experiment here because there’s no definition to limit you. Start with a bland base, such as cooked rice, barley or even bread crumbs. Add your favorite sauteed vegetables, seasonings and enough egg to keep the burger from falling apart.

Vary the spices to match the other ingredients. For example, if shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and water chestnuts are part of your burger, soy sauce and five-spice powder will give it an Asian flavor. If onions, garlic, tomatoes and zucchini are what you have to work with, try oregano and/or basil for an Italian accent.

The following recipe for Veggie Burgers With Sweet Onion Relish should serve as an inspiration. If you decide to include tomatoes, squeeze out the excess liquid first.

Serve hominy mixed with cherry tomatoes and a spicy vinaigrette dressing as an unusual and satisfying accompaniment.

Veggie Burgers With Sweet Onion Relish

1 small zucchini, trimmed and diced

1 packed cup diced shiitake or other mushrooms (about 3 ounces)

1/4 cup chopped green onions, green parts only

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup plain cooked brown rice

1 teaspoons soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed, dried herbes de Provence or crushed, dried oregano

1 egg, beaten

Sweet onion relish (recipe follows)

2 hoagie or submarine rolls, split and toasted, optional

Place zucchini, mushrooms and onions together on cutting board and mince very fine. (Don’t use food processor or mixture will be too wet.)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large, nonstick skillet. Saute vegetables over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove vegetables to bowl. Stir in brown rice, soy sauce, pepper, herbs and egg.

Heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Drop rice mixture into skillet, forming 6 small burgers. Gently press down with spatula and fry until nicely browned on bottom, about 5 minutes. Gently turn over and fry top side another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare sweet onion relish.

To serve, place 3 burgers on each bottom half of rolls; top with half the relish and close. Or serve burgers by themselves, hot, with relish.

Yield: 2 servings.

Nutrition information per serving, without relish: 721 calories, 17.2 grams fat (21 percent fat calories), 18 grams protein, 128 grams carbohydrate, 91 milligrams cholesterol, 515 milligrams sodium.

Sweet Onion Relish

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium Walla Walla Sweet or other sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Salt, pepper

Dash nutmeg

Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet. Add onion and saute over low heat until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Serve warm.

Yield: About 1 cup.

Nutrition information per 1/2-cup serving: 71 calories, 6.9 grams fat (87 percent fat calories), 1 gram protein, 2 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 196 milligrams sodium.

Hominy Salad

1 cup canned hominy, drained

10 cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved

1 large jalapeno chili, cored, seeded and minced

1 small red onion, diced

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon paprika

2 teaspoons lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

Combine hominy, tomatoes, jalapeno and onion in medium bowl.

Combine cumin seeds, paprika, lime juice, oil and salt and pepper to taste in cup. Pour over hominy mixture and toss gently but well. Set aside 10 minutes for flavors to blend before serving.

Yield: 2 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 326 calories, 10.4 grams fat (29 percent fat calories), 9 grams protein, 58 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 246 milligrams sodium.

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